With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards. Here, we look at a group who shouldn’t go overlooked just because they weren’t starters.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
The value of high-volume, high-scoring sixth men is usually overstated, but in Williams’ case, it can’t be said enough how important he was to the Clippers this season.
He had a career year at the age of 31, averaging 22.6 points and 5.3 assists – the first player in league history to average those numbers off the bench – which could have easily landed him on the All-Star team. He even dropped 50 points in a win over Golden State, while having three 40-point performances sprinkled in throughout the season.
Few players in the league are more ‘instant offence’ than Williams, who never enters a game lacking for confidence. For slashing to outside shooting and everything in between, the guard simply knows how to get buckets.
It’s a testament to Williams’ season that the Clippers, after losing Chris Paul last summer and trading Blake Griffin at the deadline, were in the hunt for a playoff spot until the final days and finished two games above .500.
The one factor working against Williams’ case for the award is that he started 19 games and wasn’t a true back-up for the entire season, but that still leaves 60 games in which he came off the bench.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Gordon had another strong campaign for the Rockets as a reserve in a season they notched a league-best 65 wins. He had the third-most 3-pointers attempted (8.8) and made (3.2) per game among all players.
Stats don’t tell the whole story with VanVleet, who was crucial to the Raptors’ 59-win season as a player who did it all in his limited minutes. Toronto outscored by 352 points when the back-up guard was on the floor – a mark that was among some of the top stars in the league.
With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards. Here, we look at some of the best young talent the league has to offer.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
You can argue all you want over whether or not Simmons should be categorised as a rookie, but that’s exactly what he is according to the league’s definition, even if he entered the NBA last season before sitting the year out with an injury.
And because he’s technically a rookie, the Philadelphia 76ers phenom should earn the top honour among first-year players after being an All-Star calibre player from the get-go.
A triple-double threat every night, the 21-year-old averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds this past season to help transform the 76ers from bottom-dwellers to a team that reached the second round of the playoffs.
Simmons’ game isn’t without holes as his inability to shoot from outside was exposed in the playoffs, but his combination of size and skills, as well as his exquisite playmaking as an oversized point guard, make him one of the most unique players in the league.
The comparisons to LeBron James are a bit much, but Simmons has already proven he can develop into one of the best players in the league for years to come.
You can easily make a case Mitchell should win the award because of how much more he had to do than Simmons as Utah’s primary scorer from the jump. By averaging 20.5 points for a playoff team, Mitchell proved his bag of tricks and offensive arsenal is already veteran-like.
Tatum’s stats don’t jump off the page like Simmons or Mitchell’s, but his ability to be an impact player for one of the best teams in the league was arguably just as impressive. And the 20-year-old jumped to another level in the playoffs, where he was the focal point for a side that was one win from the Finals.
With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards and here, we look at Defensive Player of the Year.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
It’s hard to discern where to draw the line when it comes to players missing time and still being deserving of individual honours.
Gobert is one of those cases as he missed 26 of Utah’s first 44 games. However, his impact after his return was so obvious that it feels wrong to penalise him for his injury in the first half of the season.
When he was on the court, the Jazz had a defensive rating of 97.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, a mark that would have comfortably ranked first in the league.
As the NBA’s best rim protector, Gobert legitimately affects opposing players’ point-blank shots, by both swatting and altering them. There’s a reason he has the nicknames ‘Stifle Tower’ and ‘French Rejection’.
Gobert’s presence in the paint also scares away players from attacking the rim in a way that isn’t quantifiable.
He’s not the prototype for the ideal defensive player in today’s game, with someone like Draymond Green arguably more valuable for his versatility and ability to guard all over the court, but Gobert does what he does extremely well.
After finishing as the DPOY runner-up in 2017, Gobert is deserving of finally breaking through.
Like Gobert, Embiid is a brick wall at the rim and a deterrent to any player who wants to risk driving to the basket. His blocks per game dropped from last season – 2.5 to 1.8 – but the 76ers centre was the pillar of a Philadelphia defence that finished third in the league in defensive rating with 102.0 points.
There isn’t a more complete defender among big men than Davis, who can lock down a guard on the perimeter and then rotate over to swat a shot in the same possession. The combination of his mobility and size makes him a devastating weapon, as evidenced by his 2.6 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.